Freeland business is pretty in pink for breast cancer awareness

Elaine Damerau drives her pink loader/backhoe through the gravel and dirt pit at Andrew’s Landshapers in Freeland to increase awareness about breast cancer. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.   - Patricia Duff / The Record
Elaine Damerau drives her pink loader/backhoe through the gravel and dirt pit at Andrew’s Landshapers in Freeland to increase awareness about breast cancer. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
— image credit: Patricia Duff / The Record

FREELAND — Pink is the new black — for this month at least.

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and pink has been the campaign’s color since its inception 25 years ago, representing the numerous women who battle breast cancer daily, and remembering those who have lost the fight.

Elaine Damerau likes the color pink and what it represents.

“My auntie died of breast cancer, and so did two of my friends,” Damerau said.

“I have another family friend who is going through chemo right now. It seems that every day I hear about somebody who has breast cancer,” she said.

That’s why Damerau’s loader/backhoe is painted a vibrant bubblegum pink.

The diminutive Damerau uses the machine at Andrew’s Landshapers, the rock, soil, fertilizer and landscaping business she runs with her husband Andrew situated on Highway 525 in Freeland.

“I call it my Barbie-mobile,” Damerau said. She also includes a lot of pink in her wardrobe every day.

She talked her husband into having the backhoe painted pink three years ago when he was getting ready to buy a new loader from Jet City Equipment Sales in Oak Harbor.

“I told the seller that he would have to paint my backhoe pink if he wanted to make the sale,” Damerau said with a sly look.

After some good-humored threats and mock scare tactics of “ladies in pink coming after him” by Damerau and her posse of women, the dealer agreed to the deal. The paint was donated by Wesco Auto Body Supply of Bellingham, and Damerau put some heavy elbow grease into pressure-washing the machine, and de-greasing and sanding its surface to get it ready for its new, more feminine look.

“I got it back the day before the parade,” Damerau said.

She was in the pink for the fair.

For the past three years, the Barbie-mobile has been a prize-winning entry in the Island County Fair and Freeland parades.

For the parades, Damerau invites friends and family to participate, but her niece and nephew have called shotgun when it comes to sitting in the hoe’s shovel.

“They’ve sat in it three years in a row,” she said.

The parades, she said, are a great way to keep awareness up on the island about breast cancer, and to keep the pink campaign at the front of people’s minds. But besides riding her pink wheels through town and on the fairgrounds, Damerau continues to keep the issue front and center while at the office.

Highway 525 travelers heading North may have noticed another pink machine that marks the Landshapers driveway.

“Andrew had that old loader painted pink for me on Valentine’s Day last year,” Damerau said.

In the office, the Dameraus also offer a full line of pink garden tools made by “Garden for the Cause,” including shovels, hoes, rakes and hand tools, with 100 percent of proceeds from those sales going to the couple’s organization of choice, “Look Good ... Feel Better.”

“We wanted to keep it local, and this company makes women feel better about how they look during and after treatment,” Elaine Damerau said.

Look Good ... Feel Better is a free program offered at cancer centers, hospitals, salons and other community settings to women with cancer. Through the program, trained volunteer cosmetologists teach women how to cope with skin changes and hair loss using cosmetics and skin-care products donated by the cosmetic industry. Women also learn ways to disguise hair loss with wigs, scarves and other accessories.

Awareness breeds more awareness, and Damerau said that customers who come into the office tell her stories about loved ones who have died, or someone in their lives who is dealing with cancer.

“People come and talk to me. They need to talk about it,” Damerau said. It’s not a surprise that customers open up to Damerau in her office. On the counter sits a plate of homemade cookies. A filing cabinet is strewn with the National Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign’s iconic pink-ribbon stickers — one with the name of a friend who is currently being treated — and, in the middle of the room is Damerau’s pink desk chair.

“Andrew bought that for me. I was thinking about putting up some pink curtains,” she said laughing.

Her husband takes it all in stride after being convinced that a pink backhoe was good for business. He was worried at first about the machine’s resale value, and also briefly about whether he and the other guys who work there would be able to drive it and still maintain their dignity.

“I’m cool with it,” Andrew Damerau said. “I’m man enough.”

“I begged him for it,” Elaine Damerau said jokingly.

But Andrew has come onboard with the idea, especially after the pink backhoe helped them to raise $1,300 for Breast Cancer in their first “pink” year. He takes pride in his wife’s idea.

“I think it’s great. We always get positive comments from customers about it, and I think people appreciate what it’s about,” he said.

“But I also think all the other parade participants don’t like her pink backhoe because she always wins,” he added.

Elaine Damerau pulls out the trinkets that she is passing out this month in honor of the awareness campaign. She gives out pink ribbon stickers, tiny ribbon bracelet charms and the ubiquitous and recognizable pink rubber bracelets that read: “Mothers, daughters, sisters, friends.”

“One of my customer's daughters was going through treatment, and he came and talked to me about it. I gave him a bunch of stuff to give her. It really lifted her spirits,” she said.

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